After a day off on Wednesday, The New Jersey Devils are back in action while they visit the Calgary Flames. The Devils take a two-game road winning streak into the Saddledome, while the Flames sport a 5-1-1 home record at the beginning of this season. Throughout their last ten, the Flames have been playing roughly .500 hockey, with a 5-4-1 record. Even though it’s way too early to begin thinking of the playoffs, the Flames sit in the Western Conference’s second wild-card spot.
After a less than spectacular start to the season, the Devils look to be turning a corner. Much of their early-season underachievement took place during a Prudential Center heavy schedule, so this road trip possibly makes a potential turn around just a bit more difficult. This Western Canada swing has the potential to make or break the Devils and prove if they can be contenders or pretenders this season.
Players To Watch
Nikita Gusev and Jesper Boqvist
Both players, who haven’t seen consistent NHL game appearances, suited up on Tuesday’s game. Not only that, but both of them sealed the win with shootout goals. That should have been enough to earn some more trust from head coach John Hynes. Both players are still fighting to make an impression, so expect some sort of contribution against Calgary.
The Devils’ best player on a point-per-game basis has plenty of questions surrounding his future contract status. The impending free agent has specific interest in this upcoming Canada trip, as his agent is scheduled to meet with Ray Shero. These next few games are perfect for Hall to try to up his value, and an impressive performance out of him usually leads to a Devils victory.
Known more affectionately as “Johnny Hockey,” all eyes tend to go toward the dynamic, yet undersized forward when he matches up against New Jersey. Not only is he one of the most talented players in hockey, but he famously shares a home state with the Devils in New Jersey. Imagine if he wore red and black instead of Calgary’s red and orange. We can dream, can’t we?
Keys To Victory
Outscore the Opponent
Okay, that heading may have fallen under the category of “no s$#%t Sherlock,” but the Calgary Flames are a top ten offensive team in the NHL when it comes to goals scored. Also, they are number four for goals allowed. The Devils’ offense may not be full of firepower, but if they put up the number of shots they put up against the Tampa Bay Lightning in a shootout loss last week, they might be able to outslug Calgary.
Don’t Rely On The Power Play
The Devils power play has already taken leaps forward after a disastrous start, but still only converts on 14% of their chances. That’s roughly on par with Calgary 17% success rate, and they both reside in the bottom ten teams of the NHL on the man advantage. However, Calgary plays some of its best hockey on the penalty kill. The Devils shouldn’t expect their scoring to come on the power play, because Calgary can easily shut them down.
The Devils won against the Winnipeg Jets, and when you win there isn’t much you can complain about. The one exception was New Jersey’s terrible showing in the face-off circle, where Winnipeg won roughly 65% on the night. Both Calgary and New Jersey are between 48%-49% on the season for face-off wins (Calgary has a slight advantage) so the Devils should have a more even showing in the face-off circle. Hynes should employ the uses of Travis Zajac, Pavel Zacha, and even the improving Kevin Rooney in these situations.
New Jersey Devils (via Chris Wescott on Twitter)
Where To Watch
The New Jersey Devils take on the Calgary Flames tonight at 9:00 on MSG+ 2. Pregame coverage will start a half-hour before at 8:30. If you’re still awake after the final horn sounds, MSG+2 will have postgame coverage as well.
Hopefully, the Devils stay hot tonight. The Flames may be a better team, but they can be beaten, and are most likely tired after finishing a road trip. 3-2 Devils.